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Sorrow to service: Mom, whose son died in police chase, helps homeless

Agatha Eaglechief, a resilient Saskatoon woman from Mosquito, Grizzly Bear’s Head, Lean Man First Nations, has transformed her grief into a powerful force for good.
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Agatha Eaglechief does "hood" drives where she brings hot drinks, blankets, and food to the homeless freezing on Saskatoon's streets.

SASKATOON – Agatha Eaglechief, a resilient Saskatoon woman from Mosquito, Grizzly Bear’s Head, Lean Man First Nations, has transformed her grief into a powerful force for good. After the tragic loss of her son, Austin Eaglechief, in a high-speed chase with Saskatoon police on June 19, 2017, Agatha has dedicated herself to helping the city's growing homeless Indigenous population.

A mother of six, she does what she calls "hood drives," reaching out to those struggling on Saskatoon's streets. Her initiative involves accompanying individuals to court, assisting with food bank visits, and delivering essential items such as food and medication.

“I do this to help those that can't help themselves,” she said.

“Our time in the hood is literally helping those in the emergency at that very moment. Basically, what a M.O.M (mom on a mission) should do; goes all out for their tribe.”

Agatha's motivation stems from understanding the systemic challenges faced by Indigenous people, exacerbated by daily discrimination and homelessness. Her late son, Austin, was known for providing shelter and support to friends struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

“We had our living room full of his friends that were kicked out from their homes because of alcohol and drugs, along with mental health,” she said.

Her commitment extends to her living children, who actively support her efforts.

"My living children are my main sponsors, big time, watching me balance our lives just to get by. We do not consider it work.”

Agatha identifies several areas in the city as the "hood.”

“The hood is 20th street area, Idylwyld, 8th Street, and all the alphabet alleys.”

Indigenous individuals arriving in the city often lack support systems, with reserves failing to provide assistance. Agatha points to factors such as discrimination by landlords, underfunding from the government, and difficulties meeting rental criteria as contributors to homelessness.

“Some have no choice but to freeze in the winter. The shelters are over-crowded. There are not enough shelters. In Saskatoon, we need residency, in-house life skill training, and detox.

“The reserves do not help out urbans,” she added. “They are left without the social system and put into a lot of situations.”

One particular incident affected her last week. She said she was at a large grocery store when she saw an intoxicated older First Nation man who was about to be taken away by security for trying to steal cranberry juice.

“I told the cashier I was going to pay for it. It cost $8 then he was free to go.”

Despite the emotional toll of witnessing daily suffering, Agatha finds balance through equine therapy, moose hunting, and Indian Relay Racing with her family.

She travels all over Saskatchewan and Alberta with Whitefish Warriors. In July, the Whitefish Warriors competed in the Indian Relay at the Calgary Stampede. They also competed at the Indian Relay Racing Championship in Walla Walla, Washington.

“We all travel as a family. My nephews are the riders. My brother is the catcher. I am the back holder and Zack is the other holder and Melton is the guy that watches everything from the side lines.”

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Agatha Eaglechief with a horse. Supplied by Agatha Eaglechief

During the winter she helps water and feed the horses.

Agatha also draws strength from her son's passion of helping others in need, remembering his desire to advocate for First Nations people and his condemnation of the federal government. His words, she said that were once printed in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in the form of a letter to the editor, continue to inspire her as she tirelessly works to aid those in need.

“My son’s story, his legacy lives on in me when I am out there helping those that need the emergency help at that moment.”

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Austin Eaglechief died during a police chase in Saskatoon on June 19, 2017. Agatha Eaglechief / Facebook

ljoy@glaciermedia.ca

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